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Journey to net-zero not a straightforward line

Forward thinking businesses have by now realised the potential of corporate environmental responsibility in attaining future cost savings and in developing a competitive advantage through innovation. They have formulated roadmaps to net-zero and integrated environmental responsibility across their value chain.

En kran lyfter in en ny kylenhet i Wellspects produktionsanläggning. Mölndal, september 2022, @Wellspect

One such company is Wellspect HealthCare, a Swedish MedTech firm headquartered in Mölndal, which develops innovative continence care products.  

In 2020, the company publicised its vision of becoming a sustainability leader within the MedTech industry and its ambition to have a net-zero value chain by 2045. To tap into the company’s learnings and challenges in its journey to net-zero, Gothenburg Life Science spoke to Maria Lundbäck, Head of Corporate Marketing Communication at Wellspect HealthCare.

“Environmentally sustainable production has understandably become a marketing tool – but it is also crucial for the planet. We have been working with a holistic approach to sustainability for many years now. In 2020, we pronounced our ambition to achieve a net-zero value chain by 2045. We also put in place an exhaustive road map with concrete undertakings covering product design, material input, processing and assembly to distribution and waste. All departments were brought onboard with the roadmap, and we saw to its integration into the company’s business plan and strategic drivers”, explains Maria.

Switching to more sustainable machinery

As part of this roadmap, Wellspect is now overseeing a shift in its manufacturing processes whereby materials, machinery and energy sources are scrutinised and replaced with lower climate impact options.

To name one example, the company is switching to more sustainable machinery that operates on more climate-friendly technology. Last month, it received and installed the first in a series of cooling units that will see to a reduction of Wellspect’s environmental footprint at its biggest production plant in Mölndal.

The new units, which rely on the ammonia refrigerant, enable an annual decrease of 200 ton of CO2e, when compared to previous systems. They are also more energy-efficient, allowing Wellspect thereby to reap double climate benefits.  Similar processes are ongoing throughout the Wellspect value chain, be it in the choice of sterilization material or energy sources.

What about costs?

Asked about the costs of Wellspect’s ongoing transition, Maria acknowledged the hefty upfront costs associated with the upgrading of technologies, processes and systems.

“It has been costly, but we are convinced that we will have a future return on investment as cost savings will be attained in the longer term. As businesses, we must deploy the available technologies at the pace and scale required to meet the global climate goals as well as the goals we have set as a company”, adds Maria.

Celebrate wins and deal with setbacks

Guided by the Science-based targets (SBTs) framework and with 2020 as a baseline, Wellspect aims at reducing its scope 1 and 2 emissions, with 95 per cent by 2030 while also achieving a net-zero value chain by 2045.

To this end, Wellspect recently announced its commitment to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which is a global body that enables businesses to set and monitor emissions reduction targets in line with the latest climate science.

To showcase its commitment to sustainability, Wellspect makes sure to quantify its progress and to regularly shares metrics in relation to the various areas it has identified as part of its roadmap to net-zero.  

“Communicating in an evidence-based way in relation to our sustainability work is important. When talking sustainability, companies tend to inflate their accomplishments. As businesses, we should do better in openly discussing our challenges and setbacks and in learning from them.  In 2021, Wellspect registered 1 per cent higher CO2e emissions in scope 1 and 2 (compared to 2020) due to higher production related emissions. We didn’t attempt to hide it. We went public with those figures. We have learned from that and will hopefully do much better this year”, says Maria.

Asked for her final take-aways, Maria says that the journey to net-zero isn’t a straightforward line. There are wins and there are setbacks. It requires a constant re-shaping of strategies. Integrating environmental responsibility into business operations is however the right thing to do. For responsible businesses and for the planet. It is also the only way to guarantee the long-term survival of businesses.